Thursday, March 18, 2010

Prayers today: Let hearts rejoice who search for the lord. Seek the Lord and his strength. seek always the face of the Lord. (Ps 104:3-4)

Merciful Father, may the penance of our Lenten observance make us your obedient people. May the love within us be seen in what we do and lead us to the joy of Easter. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns world without end. Amen.

St. Cyril of Jerusalem (315?-386)

The crises that the Church faces today may seem minor when compared with the threat posed by the Arian heresy, which denied the divinity of Christ and almost overcame Christianity in the fourth century. Cyril was to be caught up in the controversy, accused (later) of Arianism by St. Jerome, and ultimately vindicated both by the men of his own time and by being declared a Doctor of the Church in 1822. Raised in Jerusalem, well-educated, especially in the Scriptures, he was ordained a priest by the bishop of Jerusalem and given the task of catechizing during Lent those preparing for Baptism and during the Easter season the newly baptized. His Catecheses remain valuable as examples of the ritual and theology of the Church in the mid-fourth century.

There are conflicting reports about the circumstances of his becoming bishop of Jerusalem. It is certain that he was validly consecrated by bishops of the province. Since one of them was an Arian, Acacius, it may have been expected that his “cooperation” would follow. Conflict soon rose between Cyril and Acacius, bishop of the rival nearby see of Caesarea. Cyril was summoned to a council, accused of insubordination and of selling Church property to relieve the poor. Probably, however, a theological difference was also involved. He was condemned, driven from Jerusalem, and later vindicated, not without some association and help of Semi-Arians. Half his episcopate was spent in exile (his first experience was repeated twice). He finally returned to find Jerusalem torn with heresy, schism and strife, and wracked with crime. Even St. Gregory of Nyssa, sent to help, left in despair. They both went to the (second ecumenical) Council of Constantinople, where the amended form of the Nicene Creed was promulgated. Cyril accepted the word consubstantial (that is, of Christ and the Father). Some said it was an act of repentance, but the bishops of the Council praised him as a champion of orthodoxy against the Arians. Though not friendly with the greatest defender of orthodoxy against the Arians, Cyril may be counted among those whom Athanasius called “brothers, who mean what we mean, and differ only about the word [consubstantial].”

“It is not only among us, who are marked with the name of Christ, that the dignity of faith is great; all the business of the world, even of those outside the Church, is accomplished by faith. By faith, marriage laws join in union persons who were strangers to one another. By faith, agriculture is sustained; for a man does not endure the toil involved unless he believes he will reap a harvest. By faith, seafaring men, entrusting themselves to a tiny wooden craft, exchange the solid element of the land for the unstable motion of the waves. Not only among us does this hold true but also, as I have said, among those outside the fold. For though they do not accept the Scriptures but advance certain doctrines of their own, yet even these they receive on faith” (Catechesis V).

The Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John (5.31~47)

Jesus said, "If I testify about myself, my testimony is not valid. There is another who testifies in my favour, and I know that his testimony about Me is valid. You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. I have testimony weightier than that of John. For the very work that the Father has given Me to finish, and which I am doing, testifies that the Father has sent Me. And the Father who sent Me has Himself testified concerning Me. You have never heard His voice nor seen His form, nor does His word dwell in you, for you do not believe the One He sent. You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life. I do not accept praise from men, but I know you. I know that you do not have the love of God in your hearts. I have come in My Father's Name, and you do not accept Me; but if someone else comes in his own name, you will accept him. How can you believe if you accept praise from one another, yet make no effort to obtain the praise that comes from the only God? But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But since you do not believe what He wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?

He has seen the Father
(Homily by Fr. E. J. Tyler)

When St Paul visited Athens he saw a shrine to the “unknown God.” He made use of this in his address to the Areopagus, but in the event his efforts to convince were of little avail. He made a point, though, that is full of interest even though I do not wish to explicate its implications here. Rather, I suggest that we dwell on the inability of man to see and know God directly. We take it for granted — as, in a sense, we must — that for all that we see and know directly, we cannot see and know directly the overwhelmingly important and prominent Being who sustains our vast universe. We see the myriads of insects and the range of bird and animal life. We observe the composition and the movements of earth and stars. The study of man and nature as represented in the libraries and literature of the world is so vast as to be far beyond synthesis. This we see. But the One who sustains everything we do not see. We know something of this great Being from the visible creation, but our knowledge is fitful and there is little firm agreement among the peoples and religions as to the lineaments of his nature. Yet the religions and literature of man testify to the fact that we long to see and communicate with the One on whom everything depends. More than this, we long for a revelation from the great Being whom we constantly need. Indeed, it is typical for the religions of man to claim that this revelation has occurred. Mahomet claimed it and others have too, and sadly human history has numerous instances of one religion attempting by force to put down another because of such competing claims. But they all bear testimony to the need for a direct contact with God. Typically man reveres the one who claims to have had this contact, at least if he makes such a claim persuasively. The seers and the prophets — whatever they be called — are honoured unless they conflict with others who claim this position. This religious Fact shows how great a boon man would consider having a person who has seen and known God directly. Such a man would give us what we truly need to know.

This is the reason why the Christian religion offers such good news to the world — this and much more. In our Gospel today (John 5: 31-47), our Lord speaks with sovereign assurance of how totally qualified he is to speak of God. He is more qualified than any other. Take any of the prophets — take John, John the Baptist, for instance. What is to be said of Jesus Christ when set next to John? “You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy his light. I have testimony weightier than that of John.” Whatever reason one might have for accepting the testimony of the greatest of the prophets, the testimony Jesus Christ has is much the greater. Look at his work! Not only do his miracles testify to his authority to speak of God — and who in the history of the world has worked the miracles that Jesus Christ worked, in terms of number and quality? But his work is above all the work of redemption from sin. Now, who in the history of the world has attempted to take away the sin of the world? This is a breathtaking proposition, and as a mission it has scarcely occurred to anyone anywhere. But this was the mission of Jesus Christ. John the Baptist said of him that he is the one who takes away the sin of the world. Further, what is the means of doing this? If we were to have asked the greatest of the ancient philosophers — say, Socrates, or Plato, or Aristotle — how the sin of the world could be taken away, what would be the response? I suspect they would have been nonplussed, even if they had understood the terms of the question. But that was Christ’s grand mission, and the way to attain it was by his Passion and Death. He is unique in his claims and in the support for his claims. But most of all, he has seen the living God. “You have never heard his voice nor seen his form,” our Lord says to his enemies. He, Jesus of Nazareth, “heard his voice” continually, and continually saw “his form,” the “form” of the Father.

Let us recognize the authority of Jesus Christ. It is supreme. He comes from God, with whom he dwelt from all eternity. He is the Father’s only-begotten Son, and mankind has the inestimable blessing of having as a brother man One who is God himself. There is in our midst the One who knows all things and has opened for us the way to God by his Passion and Death. Let us regard him as our Light, then! He the Light of the world, without which we are in the dark.

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